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Decentring poverty studies: Middle class alliances and the social construction of poverty


  • Victoria Lawson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Geography, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
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  • with Middle Class Poverty Politics Research Group

Victoria Lawson (email:


Editors' Note: The following is the tenth in the Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography Lecture Series. It is based on the plenary presentation of 13 April at the AAG held in Seattle in 2011.

In this essay I explore relational poverty analysis to take seriously the spatially varied intersections of political-economic, social ordering and cultural-political processes in shaping understandings of poverty. My work as part of the Middle Class Poverty Politics Research Group employs a relational comparative methodology to theorize where, when and under what circumstances those framed as ‘middle class’ act in opposition to or in solidarity with those named as ‘poor’. Our approach focuses on the exploitative effects of capital accumulation, processes of unequal sociospatial categorization and political and discursive systems that limit or exclude the poor. Our research focuses on places experiencing capitalist crisis because intense periods of restructuring highlight material and discursive struggles over poverty. We conclude by identifying a research agenda focused on the ways in which poverty politics are constituted by the nonpoor through place and in the articulation of places with processes of political economy, governance and cultural politics.